Welcome to Ignition Lane’s Weekly Wrap, where they cut through the noise to bring you their favourite insights from the technology and startup world.
Ignition Lane works with ambitious business leaders to apply the Startup Mindset to their technology, product and commercialisation problems.
This wrap goes out free to subscribers every Saturday. Don’t forget you can catch Gavin Appel discussing the week on the Startup Daily show on Ausbiz every Monday at 2pm. If you miss it, you can catch up on the week’s shows here.
Here’s their review of the week.
Tech’s fight to save the climate heats up
MCB’s coal patrol. Putting their money where their mouthes are, Aussie tech billionaires and major green economy backers Mike and Annie Cannon-Brookes have had a busy week trying to reduce Australia’s reliance on coal.
Alongside Canadian investment firm Brookfield, the couple’s investment arm Grok Ventures made a takeover play for one of Australia’s leading polluters – energy giant AGL. The $8bn offer represented a 4.7% premium on the previous day closing share price, and included a proposal to spend $20bn switching AGL to renewables and close its coal power stations by 2030. AGL and Scomo, however, have dismissed the plan as “unrealistic.”
Grok has also taken a “meaningful” $200m stake in Infradebt – a major financier of renewables and battery storage. Infradebt is providing a new $35m debt facility to develop Genex’s Bouldercombe Battery Project in Queensland. That project includes a world-first revenue sharing deal with Telsa, who will supply and operate the big battery system, while providing Genex with guaranteed revenues.
Meanwhile there’s been plenty of activity on the green tech raising front this week too:
- Aera VC raised US$30m (A$42m) to invest in climate tech. Aera is also launching an investment DAO (Distributed Autonomous Organisation) called Aera Force, with 2,000 Ethereum (around US$6m) planned for pre-seed blockchain projects working on climate and carbon-related problems.
- Zoomo raised US$20m, further extending its US$60m debt/equity round from November. Zoomo, which operates in 16 cities across across North America, APAC and Europe, offers e-bike subscriptions for gig workers and provides e-bike fleets to enterprise customers like Domino’s.
- Arkon Energy raised $2.6m to help renewable energy companies make better returns by mining bitcoin when there’s oversupply in the electricity grid.
- Cecil raised US$1.6m led by Tenacious Ventures. Cecil simplifies the process of managing and investing in natural assets that incentivise decarbonisation and ecosystem conservation.
- Trace raised $1.5m to help SMBs track and manage their carbon emissions.
Births, death & marriages in ANZ tech
Unified A.I. CSIRO’s new National AI Centre has appointed ex-Microsoft AI gun Stela Solar as its first director. Solar’s first priority is to unify the Australian AI industry by breaking down divisions between different fields of AI and improving our ability to turn world-leading AI research into commercial opportunities.
More funds for Web3. Sydney-based VC King River Capital is launching a new Digital Asset Fund to invest in Web3 (crypto, NTF, etc) opportunities. It has raised $50m of a target $150m so far.
Aussie capital for the Startup Nation. Serial investor Josh Liberman (early backer of Seek and Canva) is creating a new $140m VC fund to provide Australian investors access to the Israeli startup scene.
Launching Vic. Victoria’s startup agency LaunchVic made three big announcements:
- It’s new 30×30 program aims to see 30 Victorian scaleups reach unicorn status by 2030. Rather than a program focussed purely on founders, 30×30 provides executive education and mentorship to HR, Operations and Finance leaders, along with other startup support. Applications are now open.
- V-Ignite (led by Neil Stanford and Brighid Pappin) has been appointed as fund manager for the Victorian Startup Capital Fund. V-Ignite will raise at least $60m from investors to match the government’s cornerstone investment managed by LaunchVic.
- Congrats to all the winners of the first Governor of Victoria Startup Awards, including Linktree (Scaleup of the Year), Amber Electric and Seer Medical (Startups of the Year) and Currus Biologics (Best Newcomer).
Death to underpaid gig work. In a win for gig economy workers, the NSW Industrial Relations Commission ruled that Amazon Flex drivers (who courier packages using their own vehicles) must be paid a minimum rate per hour. The rate will be phased-in, starting at $27.83/hr on 1 March and increasing to $37.80/hr by 1 July 2025. Meanwhile, Amazon’s growth in Australia is booming – 2021 sales revenue was up 57% to $1.75bn.
Crowdfunded Super collapse. GigSuper, a super fund targeting self-employed/gig workers, collapsed in December owing $2.7m to unsecured creditors and $200k to employees. This week, media reports raised details of questionable behaviour:
[it] embarked on a crowdfunding capital raise two weeks after its trustee warned it was closing the fund in a matter of months and then breached all its members’ privacy when it told them on Christmas Eve it had collapsed.
Maropost loves Aussie retail tech. Canadian ecommerce and multi-channel marketing platform Maropost has acquired Retail Express for $55m. Retail Express is a cloud-based retail management and point-of-sale system that supports more than 5,000 retailers. This is Maropost’s second recent Aussie acquisition – it acquired backend ecommerce management platform Neto in March for $60m.
PEXA’s first strategic investment. Online property exchange network PEXA will acquire a 38% stake in Landchecker, which provides property information and data.
Local raise round up
Scalapay raised $692m at a valuation of more than $1bn “in all the currencies,” joint-led by Tencent and Willoughby Capital. The European-focussed BNPL was founded in Wollongong in 2019 – making it one of the fastest Aussie startups to hit official (USD) unicorn status.
OCR Labs raised $42m (US$30m) for its digital identity verification solution that helps businesses comply with AML/KYC regulations, using technology like character recognition, face-matching and video fraud assessment.
PictureWealth announced it raised $14m at the end of 2021. PictureWealth uses tech to provide customers a comprehensive picture of their total wealth and offers access to financial specialists on demand.
Cyble raised $13.8m (US$10m) led by Blackbird. Cyble analyses the dark and surface webs in real-time and to identify if an enterprise’s login credentials are exposed online. The number of corporate passwords leaked on the dark web has increased by 429% since March 2021!
Lumi raised another $10m only two months after closing a $20m round. Lumi is a tech-led small business lender able to process loan applications within hours.
Tiiik raised $5.2m. Tiik uses blockchain technologies to enable users to transfer funds directly from a bank account into DeFi products.
Upflowy raised $6.6m (US$4m) led by Counterpart Ventures (the San Francisco VC’s first Australian investment). Upflowy’s no-code platform helps to optimise web experiences by offering drag and drop tools for A/B testing and personalisation on web and mobile apps.
Linkby raised $5m led by Our Innovation Fund. Linkby enables brands to pay for content with selected publishers, on a cost-per-click basis.
Fortiro raised $3.5m from Our Innovation Fund. Spun out of PwC by three of its directors, Fortiro acquired PwC’s banking fraud detection product, Protect. The product helps banks detect fraud in loan document applications, e.g. identifying when people understate their expenses.
Licorice raised $1.8m to “end IT tickets forever.” Hurrah. Licorice’s nextgen IT ticketing solution matches IT requests with the right engineers, calculates the time required for each task, and allows customers to choose appointment times that suit them.
Blakthumb raised $825k led by Tidal Ventures for its end-to-end operating solution designed specifically for cannabis and indoor food production.
On vertical SaaS: David Yuan and the team at Tidemark VC have launched the Vertical SaaS Knowledge Project, starting with a great introductory essay on how to approach growth.
For founders currently raising:
Reminder to founders that the public cloud (and SaaS) markets have returned to 2018-2019 multiples. (eg 10x current rev / market cap and 7-8x forward revenues).
I'm feeling a bit of a pullback from VC investors on valuations, particularly for less "hot" deals. pic.twitter.com/mUwYudVTpn
— Ben Armstrong (@_BenArms) February 22, 2022
Closing words of wisdom from the one and only Steve Jobs:
“Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that are no smarter than you. And you can change it.”
~Steve Jobs, 1994pic.twitter.com/6ScMSmE9mP
— Jon Erlichman (@JonErlichman) February 22, 2022
That’s a wrap! We hope you enjoyed it.
Bex, Gavin and the team at Ignition Lane